Smartphones Can Decrease Brain Power Even When Turned Off, New Study Finds

Researcher found evidence suggesting cognitive functions decrease when near smartphones.

June 26, 2017 9:25 am
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Smartphones may provide unprecedented access to knowledge at our fingertips, but new research suggests the devices actually decrease brain power—even when they’re turned off.

There mere presence of a smartphone within reach decreases cognitive function and overall brain power, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that people’s ability to store and process new information increase when their smartphone was out of reach. The effect is so powerful, that smartphones can decrease this function in the brain despite being turned off or put face down (i.e. showing no alerts), according to Psychology Today.

In the study, 800 smartphone users were asked to take several tests that needed their full concentration. Random participants were then told to silence their phones before placing them face down on the desk, in their pocket, in their bag, or in another room. Those who didn’t have their phones in the room outperformed those who did by a dramatic margin.

The most phone-dependent participants improved as much as the less dependent participants when their phones were placed farther away during a second study, supporting the importance of what researchers called “smartphone-distancing behaviors.”

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